What Makes Different Shades of Matcha?

What Makes Different Shades of Matcha?

Matcha, a finely ground powder made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves, is beloved for its vibrant green color and rich, umami flavor. However, not all matcha is created equal, and the shades of matcha can vary significantly, ranging from bright, electric green to a more muted, yellowish-green. Understanding what influences these color variations can enhance your appreciation and selection of this celebrated tea.

1. Cultivation Practices

  • Shading: One of the most critical factors in determining matcha’s color is the shading process. High-quality matcha is grown in the shade for about three weeks before harvest. This shading increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves, which not only intensifies the green color but also enhances the flavor and nutritional profile. The darker the green, the higher the chlorophyll content, indicating a more premium grade of matcha.


  • Harvesting Time: The timing of the harvest also affects the color. Leaves picked during the first harvest, or "first flush," are typically more vibrant in color compared to those harvested later. First flush leaves are younger, more tender, and contain higher levels of chlorophyll and amino acids.

2. Leaf Quality and Selection

  • Leaf Parts:  Only the top leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are used for the highest quality matcha. These young, delicate leaves are more vibrant and produce a brighter green powder. Lower quality matcha may incorporate older leaves and stems, which can result in a duller color.
  • Sorting and De-stemming: The best matcha producers meticulously sort and de-stem the leaves, ensuring that only the finest parts make it into the final product. This careful selection process helps maintain a consistent, bright green color.

3. Processing Techniques

  • Steaming: After harvesting, the leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation. This process helps preserve the green color and fresh flavor of the leaves. Quick and efficient steaming is crucial; any delays can lead to a loss of color vibrancy.
  • Drying and Grinding: Proper drying techniques are essential to maintain the green color. The leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. The speed and temperature of grinding can impact the color; too much heat can cause the powder to turn a duller shade.

4. Quality Grades

  • Ceremonial Grade: This is the highest quality matcha, typically used in traditional tea ceremonies. It boasts a vibrant, bright green color and a smooth, delicate flavor. The leaves used are from the first harvest and are meticulously processed.
  • Premium Grade: Slightly lower in quality than ceremonial grade, premium matcha is still bright green but may have a slightly less intense color and flavor. It is excellent for daily consumption.
  • Culinary Grade: This grade of matcha is used primarily in cooking and baking. It has a more muted, yellowish-green color and a stronger, more astringent flavor, making it suitable for recipes where matcha is just one of many ingredients.

5. Environmental Factors

  • Climate and Soil: The terroir, including climate, soil type, and altitude, plays a significant role in the quality and color of matcha. Matcha grown in regions with optimal conditions for tea cultivation will have a more vibrant color.
  • Seasonal Variations: Seasonal changes can affect the color of the tea leaves. For instance, leaves harvested in cooler weather might have a different chlorophyll concentration compared to those harvested in warmer conditions.

Why Color Matters

The color of matcha is more than just a visual cue; it’s an indicator of quality, flavor, and nutritional content. Bright, vibrant green matcha signifies higher chlorophyll and amino acid content, which translates to a sweeter, more umami flavor and a higher concentration of beneficial compounds like antioxidants and L-theanine.


Understanding the factors that contribute to the different shades of matcha can help you select the best matcha for your needs, whether you’re looking for a luxurious ceremonial grade for traditional preparation or a robust culinary grade for your favorite recipes. The next time you enjoy a cup of matcha, take a moment to appreciate the vibrant color and consider the meticulous cultivation and processing practices that make it possible.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published